Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


Recipes posted by Holly. Maybe from her books or other sources.

Shrimp, Collards & Grits

I recently came across this beautiful, just-released cookbook by Pat Branning. Actually, Pat a friend and neighbor down in Beaufort was kind enough to send me a signed copy for review.

Shrimp, Collards & Grits by Pat Branning. Cover Art by Ray Ellis.

Shrimp, Collards & Grits by Pat Branning. Cover Art by Ray Ellis.


To read about it, please click on this link. Enjoy. It’s a beauty and chock full of luscious art, recipes and writing.


Simply Saturday

In today’s column on my new blog, The Permanent Tourist – Charleston, I offer a recipe from Simply Saturday’s column on seasonal, fresh cooking. In this case, a delicious turnip soup and a cookbook giveaway of Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. Come follow me there if you like!

Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. Photos by Rick McKee.

Southern Farmers Market Cookbook. Photos by Rick McKee.


Mac ‘n Cheese Dreams

The chilly nights and brisk days of fall bring with them the siren call for some serious comfort food. Truly, what makes better comfort food than a really excellent mac ‘ n cheese? I love to marry disparate cheeses in a creamy bechamel, melt them down, stir them into some pasta, and bake. The key is to use cheeses that pair well – one or two nutty, another one or two perhaps slightly sweet, or even a nice, mild blue cheese. You want to stick with cheeses with a nice melt factor and the best quality you can afford.

This recipe is a delicious way to use over left-over cheese and it truly warms the heart and soul. It comes together quickly. Grate/chop the cheese while the pasta cooks, prepare the bechamel base, whisk in the cheese, toss and bake. Twenty-five minutes later you have a steaming casserole custom made for cheese lovers. Or, prep ahead, refrigerate overnight and bake it off the next evening. With a side of steamed or roasted asparagus, it makes a dreamy, seasonal spring meal.

Creamy with a sharp edge from blended cheeses, this mac ‘n cheese gets a buttery, golden bread crumb crust.





























Mac ‘n Cheese Dreams

(Serves 12)

1 pound shell pasta, #50 size (I like De Cecco’s conchiglie rigate)

Cold water to cover

3 tablespoons kosher salt or sea salt

1/2 cup coarsely chopped Morbier

1/2 cup coarsely chopped Brie, rind removed

2 cups grated Gruyere

2 cups grated Muenster

For the cheese sauce base/bechamel:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons All Purpose flour

4 cups (1 quart) skim milk

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (Note: season according to the saltiness of the cheese. Better to add more later if needed once the cheese has been added).

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

For the bread crumbs:

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup plain bread crumbs

kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Generously butter a large baking dish (I used a 4.5 liter Corningware baking dish). Bring a large pot of cold water combined with 3 tablespoons salt up to a rolling boil. Add pasta and stir to blend. Reduce heat to medium high and continue cooking until the pasta is al dente, 10  – 11 minutes. Drain well in a colander. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prep the cheeses and set aside. For the bechamel, melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 2 minutes. Pour in the milk all at once and bring up to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper and add the thyme. Once at a boil, reduce to medium heat and whisk in the cheeses, in batches, until thoroughly combined and melted. Add the cooked, drained pasta to the cheese mixture and stir well to coat. Pour the mixture into the buttered baking pan. Set aside briefly.

In a separate saute pan, melt the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When melted, add the bread crumbs and stir to coat. Cook for about 1 minute or until the bread crumbs are just golden. Crumble the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the mac ‘n cheese. Bake in the center of the oven until golden and bubbling, about 25 – 30 minutes. Allow 5 minutes to rest before serving. Sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley if desired.


Vacation Station: Club Med Bread

Vacations mean different things to different people. Some long for hard partying, quiet  companionship, travel, museums, tours, learning, drinking, eating, and generally doing something new and different. For me, it’s a little bit of some of those things, but first and foremost, having not taken a real, dedicated vacation in over five years, what I needed most on my recent, delicious break, was rest and relaxation. 

On the advice of a Swedish friend, who has visited many Club Med resorts, I semi-reluctantly embarked on a trek down to a Club Med in Turks & Caicos called “Turquoise”. My mind didn’t like the notion of “club” anything. Instead, it embraced the notion of tranquility, but I didn’t want to feel like I was on a desert island, either. And, the promise of sea breezes, turquoise-toned water, lots of tennis, reading and eating good healthy food seemed too hard to resist. I even nursed a fantasty vision of a sexy, French stud sporting white capris strolling down a sandy white beach  heading towards me while wearing a dangerous, sultry smile.

What “Turquoise” ended up delivering was all of what I was seeking (well, minus the French man in capris, but there were French Canadians speaking the beautiful French language at every turn) and more.  Spright mornings of tennis morphed into lazy afternoons of reading by the pool or the exquisite beach, and in-between all of these stretches of lazy time, there was time to savor the beautiful food.

The food (and the beautiful bread) is what surprised me most of all. This resort houses (at capacity) 500 guests, not counting the extensive staff. Chef de Cuisine Herve Lotz, a native of Strasbourg, France, is responsible for feeding all of them and keeping them very, very happy. No small task, some might call it Herculean even, when you consider what I learned to be the very high standards of Club Med regulars. 

Every morning, he gathered his crew for a “tete a tete” for that day’s multiple meal production planning session. He was there most nights until long after the last meal had been eaten. Day in, day out, this man and his team create a spectacularly diverse menu of high quality food, which is even more amazing when you consider the relative remoteness of the island and the inherent difficulties that presents in even getting produce & products to the kitchen.

Breakfast included a hot buffet of waffles, pancakes, grits, eggs, sausage, made-to-order omelets, assorted yogurts, an entire table of fresh sliced fruit, meats, cheeses, and more. Lunch was especially impressive with beautifully plated dishes, salads, stews, soups, gorgeous fresh fish (especially the grouper), burgers, roasted meats, and a beautiful array of sweet treats, pastries and custards. Dinner was more of the same, except on an even greater scale. But, all three meals showcased what ultimately steals the food show at Club Med – the outrageously beautiful bread. 

Baguettes, soft country breads, croissants, coconut bread, dark chocolate bread and the ultimate star, the one that had everyone (including me!) raving – the white chocolate bread. Soft, flaky and pliable all at once, it’s studded all over with nuggets of mellow white chocolate. The taste effect falls somewhere between bread and dessert. One bite is all it takes to fall in love with the stuff. 

All bread-making at Turquoise is overseen by Boulanger Raphael-Guarionez Baldonado. Bravo to him and his entire staff! They make bread – any bread – so delicious it doesn’t even require butter. I was unable to get the recipe for the white chocolate bread from Chef Baldonado, but I called the corporate offices in Miami after I returned home. They provided the link to the You Tube video listed below which tells you exactly how to make it at home.


I would have had all of this to you sooner, but it took me a few days to get back my real-life stress legs, I was so high on relaxation after getting home. That’s what I call a vacation.

Happy baking!

Club Med Turquoise

British West Indies

Turks & Caicos




Tomato Time

Many of us wait for it all year, the sweet season of summer when tomatoes are plentiful, plump and delicious. The time is nigh in the Lowcountry. I’ll be the first to concede that nothing tops eating a vine ripe tomato (ideally still warm!) fresh off the vine with a dash of salt and pepper, unless it’s the uniquely Southern decadence of a thinly sliced tomato sandwich on soft white bread with a generous slather or Duke’s mayo and more salt and pepper.

Either way you cut them, tomatoes are heaven, and on top of that, they’re chock full of heart-friendly Lipocene and other good things.  Even though the thermometer is registering some cruel numbers this time of year, I still love the concentration and sweetness that roasting gives tomatoes (and most vegetables for that matter). If you buy smaller tomatoes (in the case of the recipe to follow, baby Heirloom multi-colored tomatoes), they spend less time in the oven which means less heat in the kitchen. Because the tomatoes are roasted in the same pan as the garlic, and both get brushed with the gentle flavor of a rosemary bundle that cooks with them, all the cooking happens in one easy pan. The peppers are roasted separately over an open flame, and it all goes neatly into a blender or food processor. I cook the onions separately in a large sauce pan and add the puree. A bit of vegetable or chicken stock, a few more minutes on the stove, and this soup is ready to rock and roll, tomato style. It can be made a day ahead and re-heated just before serving.

I made this soup/recipe this week for an easy summer dinner party I held for some of my great neighbor friends. It’s spectacular with a drizzle of fresh basil and a few “balls” of tiny pearl mozzarella as a surprise melt at the bottom of the bowl. My neighbor Peter (pictured) loved it and even asked for an entire second bowl!

Get out there and enjoy those tomatoes before it’s too late. Happy cooking!

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

(Serves Six to Eight)

5 cups (about 3 pounds), baby multi-colored Heirloom tomatoes

5 cloves garlic, skin on, drizzled lightly with olive oil and wrapped with foil

5 stems fresh rosemary wrapped in a bundle with kitchen twine

Olive oil to drizzle

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 red bell peppers, flame broiled over an open flame or under the broiler, skinned, seeded and lightly chopped

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

Generous pinch red chili flakes

Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 – 2 tablespoons (local) honey or to taste

Adjust salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: 3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves cut into thin strips, 30 pearl mozzarella balls

Preheat oven to 425F. Rinse the tomoatoes and remove any green tops. Arrange in a single layer on roasting pan with the prepped garlic (in foil)  and the fresh rosemary bundle. Drizzle all of it with best quality extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss to coat. Place in the center rack of the oven and roast until the tomatoes collapse and the garlic has softened, about 25 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, roast the red peppers over an open flame or broiler until the skin has completely blackened. Set aside to cool slightly. Run under cool water to remove all of the blackened skin, seeds and white flesh. Chop coarsely and add to the roasting pan with the cooling tomatoes. Discard the rosemary bundle and foil. Press the flesh from the roasted garlic cloves and also add to the roasted tomatoes, discarding the garlic skin casings. Pour the entire contents of the pan, including all the lovely tomato juices into the bowl of a food processor or blender, along with the water and the stock. Blend until chunky smooth. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion, red chile flakes, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have just softened, about five minutes. Add the pureed tomato mixture and the white wine. Bring up to a low simmer and cook for about five minutes to cook out the acid flavor of the wine. Stir in honey and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes or so.  (Note: The soup can be made ahead, brought to room temperature, and chilled overnight in a sealed container . Reheat before serving)

To serve, ladle the hot soup into a shallow bowl, with about 5 pearl mozzarella balls on the bottom. Garnish with a flurry of fresh basil. Serve hot!!!!



Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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